Ledyard graduates show power in unity

Ledyard — The Class of 2017 has had a rough year. The school endured several losses, students came of age in a time of conflict and, according to Principal Amanda Fagan, as of April the graduation status of 32 students was in question — five times the normal amount.

But through teamwork, she said, addressing the 204 graduates and countless family members on a cloudy and breezy Friday night, they weathered the storms they faced. Students banded together to support one another, and all 32 students in question received their diplomas. And they even came back to win what she said was "the most improbable victory in the grand history of spring pep rallies."

The pep rally win, and the embarrassing loss in the fall rally junior year, was one of many memories shared by the student speakers.

In a joint speech with Blake and Jenna McHale, Joe LoDuca said he would miss, among other inside jokes, "arriving at school early in the morning, straining to see the sunrise behind all of the trees, hearing the faint sound of caterpillar droppings in the distance and smelling the earthy scent of fresh cow manure."

In their own joint speech, Kelly Banach said she learned the importance of the tilde in certain Spanish words, and Alexandra Houdeshell said she learned how to make a great milkshake. However, both learned how to become their true selves in high school, even if that meant wearing shorts in the middle of winter.

Sam Beacham referenced her infamous love of bees in her address. She quoted author Suzy Kassem, who said that a successful person is like one of three bees: the queen, the worker bee or the bee that does not fit in. Beacham encouraged her fellow graduates to be a mixture of all three bees, using their strengths like the queen, pushing to the limits like the worker and finding happiness like the nonconformist.

Sean Healy, Sam Lahti and Nathan Phelps read an excerpt from the children's book "Frog and Toad" to illustrate tackling life's challenges.

"The most valuable thing you have going forward is your time," Lahti said. "If you do it today, then tomorrow has so many more possibilities."

Senior class President Meghan Plourde and Vice President Becca Patterson told fellow graduates to be brave, take chances and dream.

"If you aren't ready to make that impact, that's OK," Plourde said. "What truly matters, however, is the belief in your own abilities, because imagining what you can accomplish is what's going to make it a reality."

Poet laureate Allison Antcliff compiled quotes from literary works that students read (or SparkNoted) during their four years at LHS in her graduation poem to the class. Drawing from Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451," she asked classmates to "stuff [their] eyes with wonder, live as if you'd drop dead in ten seconds."

To close her speech, Fagan quoted Japanese poet Ryunsuke Satoro, who said "Individually, we are one drop. Together we are an ocean."

"Perhaps it seems like a tall order for 200 kids from a small town in Connecticut, just preparing to enter the greater world," she said. "But I have already seen what you can do when you work together, and I believe that you can change the world for real."

a.hutchinson@theday.com

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